A chunk of important wildlife winter range in southeast Idaho is undergoing a bit of a revival.
In 2016, the Henry’s Creek fire burned two-thirds of the 34,000-acre Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation assisted by providing funding that same year to help suppress the growth of cheatgrass, a noxious weed, across 8,000 acres.
In 2017, RMEF responded to a request by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) to implement emergency feeding operations due to a lack of forage and to benefit upwards of 3,500 elk and 4,000 mule deer as well as to keep those animals off of neighboring private lands.
Three years after the fire, the outlook continues to improve.
“We have had favorable growing conditions the last few years,” said Ryan Walker, WMA manager and IDFG biologist. “Last spring it was pretty lush and green out on the WMA with little trace of the burn other than some sagebrush skeletons.”
Various habitat stewardship projects continue to benefit the landscape. Bunch grasses are faring well but it takes longer for sagebrush, especially important to elk and mule deer during the winter months, to bounce back. Agencies and volunteers since planted more than 150,000 sagebrush seedlings.
Beginning in 1997 and wrapping up in 2016, RMEF helped carry out four different project phases that transferred 3,250 acres into public ownership-all of which now makes up about 10 percent of the Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area.
(Photo source: Idaho Department of Fish and Game)